All Star games of professional sports have always been showcase events, with the major knock that value is taken away from the event with players wishing to save their energy for games with "meaning" for the team they represent.
Basketball countered the issue by adding "showcase" value over a true competitive spirit. Slam dunk competitions and other highlight-reel pomp and circumstance are given to the NBA All Star game. With no vested interest, the league hopes to retain its audience by way of pure, unabashed entertainment value.
Baseball tried a different approach.
The league gave purpose to the all-star game by way of dictating home-field advantage for the World Series. The move was thought to add interest by making the game competitive. Instead, it skewed an event not built to be genuinely competitive, but set forth an array of World Series with a decidedly AL bent.
With no similar way to try and force competition out of NFL Pro Bowlers, the league has ventured to attempt a different approach by way of skewing the date and location. Miami is no frozen tundra, but will still detract slightly from the lush atmosphere of a Hawaiian vacation game.
The NFL also bumped the date to before the playoffs ended. The hope surrounding the altered event would be an improved interest from fans and players that are still in the grip of playoff fever. The anticlimax of the game as a coda to the season would be no more.
The result however, is an even greater number of players pulling out of the event. The carrot of Hawaii is no more. The minor amount of time off to feel those bumps and bruises less, gone. The idea of a Colt or Saint participating? Preposterous.
The NFL Pro Bowl in Miami is quickly becoming the alternate bowl.
In some circumstances, alternates of the alternates are being called into place. What was always something of an issue with the NFL variation of the all-star game is quickly becoming a parody.
The NFL’s elite showcase will never be able to find a solid standing point for its showcase competition. With the allure (and success) of the Super Bowl, it need not try.
The players will not risk next season (or a career) for a game where they have nothing to gain. They will never be able to perform anything but gameplay standards, with every team running a different system on either side of the ball. The fans will never be as excited as about a game that generally devolves into a game of catch between quarterbacks and whatever wideout they are most familiar with.
The NFL now falls into the arena of leagues trying to fuel interest. The move itself is a mistake. An even greater mistake, the notion that any such attempt could amount to a measurable gain for the Pro Bowl and its subpar reputation.